Interviews are stressful by nature, and your first interview can feel overwhelming. You'll likely be asked questions about the field, the company, your background and your dreams and aspirations. To say it's a lot to handle would be an understatement. When it comes time for an interview, you'll need to fully leverage the skills and experiences you gained as you completed your business degree, and know how to talk about them in an articulate manner.
Here are some of the most common business interview questions you'll face, plus some strategies for answering them in a confident, professional way.
Getting to know you questions
The interviewer will ask a series of questions designed to get a better sense of who you are, including questions about your work history, plus "ice breaker" questions. Some of the questions may seem like casual conversation, but each one presents an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you're perfect for the position. These business interview questions and answers will help you practice for your own turn in the interview chair.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Such an easy question, right? But instead of giving them your life story, offer some personal details and play up how well-suited you are to a business role. "I have been an entrepreneur since I was six," you might offer. Tie your past to your motive for studying business and conclude with academic success, such as, "I think that's why I got such good grades in strategic marketing."
2. How did you hear about the job?
Here's an opportunity to showcase your research skills and connections. Did you find the job on LinkedIn? Say so. Did you like the company so much that you checked back frequently to find an available position that suited you? Even better. Do you know someone who works here? Drop that name here. Demonstrate that you did your due diligence for this role at this specific company.
3. Why do you want this position?
"This is my favorite interview question," says Mary Pharris, director of marketing and communications at Fairygodboss. "It tells me if the person is passionate about the company and the role — or not." Be sure to demonstrate that you know the specifics of what the company does. "Then say why you're interested," Pharris recommends. "Why do you want to work there? What do you bring to the team?"
4. What would your strengths be as an employee?
This is a chance to talk up the skills that may not show up in your work experience. Are you good at math? Do you learn software easily? Are you great at problem-solving? Are you outgoing? Analytical? Team player? Remember: Soft and hard skills are important, so mention if you're an excellent public speaker (soft skill) or a whiz at Excel (hard skill).
5. What are your weaknesses?
Everyone hates this question, but there's a reason so many interviewers keep asking it. This is where you demonstrate that although you are new to the work world, you have done your share of personal growth and are self-aware. You could admit that you've stretched yourself too thin in the past and couldn't fully focus on the most important commitments. On the plus side, this experience forced you to learn time-management skills and made you better at predicting what you can take on. Whatever you do, don't give a fluff answer, like that you can't resist chocolate. (Who can?)
6. What are some of your accomplishments?
Here's an open invitation to talk about your personal bests. Is there a school project you're proud of? Intern at an investment firm? Start a microbusiness? Volunteer your advertising skills at a local nonprofit?
Highlight accomplishments that use skills employers might find desirable in a business major. For example, let's say you are the president of an on-campus Greek organization. Not only will you have managed a budget, negotiated with vendors for events, you've led others, and networked with other chapters nationally. You've balanced your school work with a major outside time commitment. And you've donated time to charity to help them advance their cause. The financial, leadership, multi-tasking, and time management skills you've demonstrated are all things businesses look for in their employees.
Some interviewers love behavioral questions, which explore how you handled something in the past with the assumption that it will predict what you'll do in the future. Prepare several anecdotes and frame them using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) method.
7. Tell me about a situation that required teamwork and how you drove your team to success.
Perhaps you led a group project at school and received a great grade. Maybe you were part of an on-campus organization that plans big events. Maybe you were the captain of the tennis team. Choose a specific incident and tell a story that demonstrates how you work with others. Here's an example of the STAR method at work.
- Situation: "In my marketing class, I was assigned to a group and asked to come up with a mock publicity plan for our school's new fundraising campaign."
- Task: Explain the problem the team faced. Maybe there was someone difficult on the team or there was friction between team members.
- Action: What did you do about it?
- Result: How did your actions lead to a great outcome?
8. Describe a time when you dealt with a difficult customer situation.
The interviewer wants to know whether they trust you to deal with clients. Did you have a job at Starbucks? Maybe you work in the library, babysit or drive for DoorDash. Pull a specific incident from one of these situations to illustrate how you turned a difficult encounter into a positive relationship.
9. What motivates you?
Several behavioral questions try to get at who you are and what drives you, such as:
- "Where are you most productive?"
- "What are your life goals and aspirations?"
- "When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
- "What do you do outside of work?"
These questions are all looking for the same thing: what inspires you. Be professional and honest. This first business job probably isn't your final dream job, but you can still honestly explain to a hiring manager how this position will help you along the way. Try phrases like, "I'm very outgoing, so I'm looking forward to working at trade shows," or, "I'm happiest solving problems, so I'm looking forward to using my math skills to inform decisions."
Interviewers will want to know how you fulfill what they're looking for in a new team member. They will go through your resume and ask specific questions about items included there to help them form an opinion of your previous skills and experience. In addition to those questions, you should also expect to be asked questions like these to determine whether you're a good fit:
10. Why do you think you'd be a good fit here?
Highlight the things in the job description that you're certain to succeed at. If they're looking for focus on details, talk about how you could leverage experience gained in a summer internship auditing financials. If they're looking for creativity, discuss the articles you write for your school's newspaper. Connect your experience to the gap they're trying to fill.
Also show that you are familiar with the company's culture and its offerings. Maybe you're an extrovert, and you love that the job involves a lot of teamwork. Or perhaps you wanted to work for an organization that gives back to the community. Maybe you're a customer. Don't be afraid to show that you're a fan of their work.
11. What are your salary requirements?
Prepare thoroughly for this one. Research salary ranges for this job in this industry and your geographic area. The interviewer will have a budget, but they also want to know how you value yourself. Aim high, but within the range you've researched, and be prepared to justify why you're worth it: "I think my fluency in Mandarin makes me particularly valuable here."
12. Where do you see yourself in five years?
The interviewer wants to know if you are ambitious and if the job lines up with your goals. You might say, "I see myself in a decision-making role, using the skills and perspective I gain in this position to understand the daily operations well enough to do that effectively." Be prepared to be specific about the skills you hope to gain.
13. Do you have any questions for me?
This might look like an attempt to wrap up the interview, so it's tempting to say, "Nope! I'm good." But this is one of the more important questions in the roster.
"By the time a candidate gets to me, this is the only question that interests me," explains Paul Smith, senior vice president at PEAK Technical Staffing. Smith is usually the last interviewer to meet with the candidate, and it's up to him to make the final call. He asks this question because it shows him how the candidate views their future in the company and whether they've done their homework.
"It shows me that they think strategically," says Smith. "I'm trying to separate out, downstream, the candidates I want to keep an eye on for promotability. You can — in the interview — set the stage for your career opportunities within the company."
Come into the interview with a couple of questions for the hiring manager in your back pocket. But keep in mind that your questions might get answered along the way, so take mental notes on whatever new questions come up throughout the interview. Show that you're engaged with the interview process and have questions related to the work, company culture or day-to-day responsibilities of the job.
While preparation and mock interviews are important, make sure the people you are meeting with understand who you are. Don't be afraid to show a little bit of your personality. Over preparation can take the wind out of an interview and make conversation strained. Be prepared to discuss the company, the role, and your strengths and weaknesses. Be confident and honest, but don't be too rehearsed, or you may not make the connection that helps you land the job.
Do you want to ensure that you'll land an interview for your first business job in the first place? Let our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder help you create application materials that will get you noticed and called in for an interview.